Earlier this year our family took a trip to the Zoo Miami. We passed through Miami on our way to the Florida Keys on a business trip for my husband. We decided to break up the 7 hour trip from Orlando area to Key West, with a stop in Miami, which is somewhat of a halfway point. The Miami Zoo is at the top of many lists of best places to visit as a family while in the Miami area so we definitely wanted to make a stop there.
Unfortunately I did not do as much research and planning as I should have beforehand so we had a few interesting moments during our visit to the zoo. By far, we had a great experience and we hope to return, but next time we will definitely not make the following mistakes.
1. Do not fail to do your research about the zoo before you arrive.
Zoo Miami is a a huge zoo (the website says it is comprised of 346 developed acres of land) and it houses more than 3,000 animals. We had done very little research prior to our visit to the zoo; basically we were going to be in Miami for about 24 hours and picked the zoo at random as our family activity for the day. We had no idea of how extensive the zoo property is and the breadth of activities and exhibits we would encounter. When we arrived we were overwhelmed with the options as everything looked so interesting and we had a few moments of trouble figuring out where to start.
2. Do not go without preparing for a long day outdoors.
I’m sure in December and the other winter months the weather in Miami is much more pleasant and tolerable. But just about any time outside of that you should be prepared to endure a day in the outdoors in hot, humid weather.
Preparing in advance for this type of climate will include dressing appropriately, carrying water and snacks for refueling and sunscreen. Also, if you have young kids, they wont be able to pass the splash park located within the zoo without shrieking and begging to get wet. Pack a change of clothes for them or any other supplies you can think of that will make the day more comfortable for your entire family.
3. Don’t pass up the opportunity to rent one of the family bicycles to help your crew get around the zoo.
There are multi-passenger bicycles available for rent near the main entrance to the zoo. We saw many families headed there as we all made our way through the entrance but we wanted to avoid the crowds so we went another way.
After about 60 minutes of wandering around the zoo we realized that we were never going to make it to the end of the day if we had to walk in the heat. We returned to the rental booth only to find that the there was now a 20 minute wait for renting and there was a long line of people waiting to sign up. We decided to cut our losses and keep moving on foot.
When we bought our entry tickets we spent a few extra dollars per person and bought passage on the zoo monorail system. This proved to be useless; the trains were not running frequently enough and we felt the train depots were in odd places in the zoo. We only rode the train once and it didn’t truly serve us well.
4. Don’t forget to choose, in advance, what activities or exhibits are the most important to your crew.
The key to this is planning, in advance, what your tour path around the zoo will include. Zoo Miami features many animal interaction exhibits including camel rides, giraffe feedings, and rhino encounters. There are a couple of themed playgrounds, a splash/water park and more. There are so many things to see and do, if you don’t plan out your most important attractions early it is easy to get overwhelmed. Also, planning your most important attractions beforehand helps you to decide on what tour path you will take through the park to maximize your time.
4. Don’t forget to live in the moment and have fun, no matter what happens!
After all of my lecturing about planning and sticking to a plan, this last tip may seem counter productive. Forgive me, as my hidden choleric nature comes out strongly when it comes to organizing and planning our family outings. Our day at Zoo Miami was enjoyable but not the most efficiently executed (geez, I sound like a miserable person, don’t I ?). On our next visit I now know how to plan well enough for us to get the most out of our time there.
Most of these tips, I believe, will help families planning a day trip to any local zoo or family attraction! What are your best tips for a stress free family visit to the zoo?